I’m so glad you made it. 🙂 If you were here during the early days of this blog, you might’ve noticed a few changes around here. Things are a tiny bit brighter, the entire blog is hosted in a new site, and I finally got myself a neat header! The semester is finally over for us here at nondescript university and I’m so happy that we all made it! This Spring also marks the culmination of a very important epoch in my life. Keep on the look out for a post on this in the near future! 😉 I know that classes are finally over for the most of us, but I still would like to continue this series on Academic Burnout. Who knows who might need it in the upcoming months (I know I probably will!). So, let’s begin.
Earlier this year, astronomers captured a stunning image of a violent battle between two stars. After investigating data from the binary system, it was concluded that the larger companion had neared the end of its life. It had swelled up into a red giant, puffing out its outer layers. The dying star grew so large that it began to swallow its much smaller companion. The lower mass star began to spiral in. As it did so, it released polar jets of heated gas. While the two stars eventually did not collide, the proximity of the two stars triggered an immense outburst which disfigured the gaseous jets into tremendous arcs (pictured below), ripped apart the older star’s outer layers and left its core exposed.
The battle against academic burnout is incredibly analogous. Like the red giant star, we are weathered by time and sometimes academic burnout makes it feel as though we are nearing the end of our prime. In an effort to conceal the collapse of our personal drive, we puff out our external layers and engage in menial, time consuming tasks to at least maintain the illusion that everything is normal. Academic burnout, dense and poignant, is eager to hit when we’re most vulnerable and least self-aware. A collision isn’t necessary. Even a close encounter with academic burnout has the potential to rip apart our sense of motivation.
So don’t let academic burnout win. Recognize it and fight against it. And here’s some ways to do it.
Four Ways to Fight Against Academic Burnout
- Recognize Symptoms and Don’t Ignore Them!
First thing’s first, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of academic burnout. If you’re finding yourself more and more demotivated, are struggling to keep up with coursework, or feel overwhelmed by the material and immediate deadlines, recognize that this mentality is a serious one that can only spiral into worse conditions if left unattended. Don’t ignore these feelings. They are completely valid and require immediate attention. Burnout is a sign that something needs to change.
- Ask yourself, “What do I value most?”
When we feel out of touch with our own personal values, it is easy to simply follow Newton’s First Law of Motion. A mismatch between the things you do, the way you act, and the things you value most leads to distress, unhappiness and an ever-increasing lack of motivation. So break free from autopilot and mechanical routines and take some time to acknowledge what’s really important to you. Need help identifying your values? Here’s a helpful exercise that helped me!
- Learn how to say, “NO.”(And recognize your limits.)
Oof. I personally struggle with this one the most. I owe this tip to Jordan E., a fellow Cal-Bridge scholar. She mentioned that as a woman of color in science, she was often asked to participate in a multitude of events geared towards promoting diversity in STEM. When it comes to causes we are passionate about, whether its promoting inclusion in the field or our own subject of study, its often difficult to say no to additional commitments. Signing up for too many things leads to an unmanageable workload. Setting boundaries is healthy. Say no and prioritize the things that really matter.
- Find your “Off” switch and actually switch “Off”.
Throughout my undergraduate career, remaining “switched on” 24/7 was often preferred and even praised. But this is obviously unsustainable; long stretches of strenuous mental activity will ultimately lead to burnout. On the other hand, studies suggest that psychological detachment from work, i.e., “switching off”, ultimately protects and even improves long-term well-being and work engagement. So once its time to clock out, check out of productivity mode and check into the rest of your life. 🙂
Academic burnout, although difficult to escape, does not last forever. While stellar burnout signifies the end of a star’s lifetime, the gaseous remains of supernovae go on to form new stars, composed of heavier and more complex elements than ever before. The end of the world is often a sign of a new beginning.